I read David Gleason's column (Tilting at nature-ruining windmills, July 5) with interest, but I am forced to point out that the aesthetic impact of coal-fired power stations far outweighs that of wind energy.

Has Mr Gleason taken a drive through the coalfields of Mpumalanga recently? Those mines surely could be described as "absolutely and completely destructive of natural beauty". About 94% of S A 's electricity is generated by burning coal, most of which is mined in Mpumalanga. Coal mines there have shamelessly flouted environmental regulations. Eighteen mines are operating without a water licence in the province, endangering water supplies and riverine ecosystems.

The Mpumalanga department of agriculture and land administration's provincial environment report acknowledges the effects of mining in that region.

It says: "The demand for coal for electricity generation, and other minerals, is a driving force which is placing increasing pressure on the natural environment, such as the mining of nonrenewable fossil fuels and burning of coal to generate electricity." The report notes that mining has resulted in a loss of biodiversity and demands huge amounts of water. Acid mine drainage, air pollution, noise pollution, and the visual impact of large open-cast mines resulted from the industry.

Already, farmers have warned that water pollution as a result of mining has the potential to affect food security throughout the country. Research shows that agricultural yields from previously mined land remain weak despite attempts at rehabilitation.

Section 24 of the constitution says "everyone has the right to an environment which is not harmful to their health or wellbeing". This provision is routinely violated by unscrupulous mining companies.

Mr Gleason's tale of a pristine wilderness reserve threatened by wind turbines is a sad one, but he has not told us precisely how the turbines on the neighbouring farm would affect the reserve. Instead, he dismisses wind power entirely.

If the wind energy development affecting Mr Gleason's correspondent is in violation of environmental regulations, then the case should be investigated and ultimately taken up in the courts. I am sure that just as Mr Gleason would not wish his integrity to be questioned by the actions of a colleague, he would not want the entire wind energy sector in S A to be judged by the actions of one rogue developer.

Given the choice, I would rather have wind turbines in the Western Cape than another coal mine in Mpumalanga.

Jocelyn Newmarch

Johannesburg